Carnoustie Turns Nasty


Editor's Note: The Big Break IV ' USA vs. Europe, is The Golf Channels fourth installment of its hit television series. As the title suggests however, this seasons format has been tweaked to include a team dynamic. But that in no way means the stakes arent high for each individual, as the 12 contestants will be vying for entry into select European Tour tournaments in 2006.
As the remaining contestants from both teams strode to the tee to meet with co-hosts Vince Cellini and Stephanie Sparks, the USA squad knew they would need to put some pressure on the Europeans to avoid falling yet another man down.
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Don Donatello from the Big Break II heated things up with his fist pump after draining a long birdie putt.
Informed that they were bypassing the Mulligan Challenge, the days format for the Immunity Challenge was 3 holes of alternate shot, using three players from each team. The team with the most strokes after three holes would be sent into the Elimination Challenge, but not before a little bit of dj vu was sprung on the guys.
Don Donatello, David Foster Jr., and David Gunas Jr. from the Big Break II (Las Vegas) were flown in to spice things up. They too would be participating in the 3-hole alternate shot format and if they were to win, both teams would be headed for the elimination.
The Big Break II team got off to a fast start with a birdie at the first, but not without a little controversy, supplied by none other than Donatello. After rolling in a tough, downhill birdie putt Donatello let go an emphatic fist pump accompanied by an even more emphatic yelled.
It was a good birdie. But I think his reaction was a little bit over the top, said Euro Marty Wilde Jr., who was put off by Donatellos antics.
I think I rubbed some people the wrong way, but I normally do that on the golf course, so its not anything different, said Donatello, chuckling.
The second hole was no different as things became even more heated when a rules discrepancy had Donatello again at odds with Team Europe.
After Big Break II team member Gunas Jr. hit a ball way right and into a collection of bushes, Donatello hit a provisional from the fairway that hit the flagstick and stopped within a few feet of the hole. They then decided they wouldnt even bother looking for the original, but Edoardo Gardino of Team Europe had other ideas.
That attitude of, Hey, just abandon the ball, just abandon the ball, is against the rules, said Gardino, who has caddied for the likes of Sergio Garcia and Seve Ballesteros.
Donatello, meanwhile, was fuming over what he thought was a breach of etiquette by the Europeans for not honoring his wish that they not join in the search to find their original ball.
I thought this was about honor and respect. If we didnt want them to look for it then they dont go look for it, said Donatello in the ensuing scramble for a rules official. But I guess this is their country so the can make their own rules.
Alas, the official deemed the Euros did nothing wrong in finding their opponents ball and play resumed with team Europe making a par on the second while both of their American counterparts made double bogeys. Suddenly all teams were tied going to the final hole.
Team Europe found trouble off the tee and basically took themselves out of the hole and straight into the Elimination Challenge. Now they waited to see if the Big Break II boys could help them out and also send Team USA into the elimination round. With each team having looks at birdie, neither could coax their putts into the hole as they then headed to a sudden death hole.
After a big drive into a greenside bunker for Team USA, T.J. Valentine splashed out to within 2 feet which resulted in a tap in birdie to put the pressure on Donatello, who was looking at an 18 footer to stay alive. He pulled it left and Team USA celebrated as their team would stay intact for at least another week.
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Edoardo Gardino took the loss in stride, saying he enjoyed the camaraderie and joking around eith the other guys.
With their win in the Immunity Challenge the USA squad also earned a try at the Ford Prize Challenge, where if anyone could knock down a 45-foot putt they would receive a two-year lease on a Ford Explorer. Unfortunately, no one on Team USA ever really scared the hole.
Now the focus was squarely on the Europeans in the Elimination Challenge as their team would soon be whittled down to four players.
That was kind of a tough feeling because we knew that one of our teammates wasnt going to be here the following morning, said Gardino.
In the Elimination Challenge the players were given two shots from 125-yards out to a green with point lines painted horizontally across the putting surface. Distance control was the key and after three rounds of two shots each, the player with the fewest points was to be ousted.
The challenge was made even more difficult as the Scottish winds picked up making distance control a chore.
I was fairly confident because Im not too bad hitting those low knock down shots, said Guy Woodman, who came out of the first round with the second most points with five.
In Rd. 2 Wilde Jr. continued his good play with six more points to lead the way with 13 total. Woodman was second with 12; Thomas Blankvoort had eight, while Gardino and Warren Bladon each were all square with six points.
After the top-4 point getters had shot in the final round and did well, it came down to Gardino and Bladon to see who would be staying. Gardino hit first and earned five points to put the pressure on the former British Amateur champ Bladon.
Youre nervous and youre put on the spot, recalled Bladon on his make or break final attempts. Hit it now or go home.
Down to his last swing, Bladon hit a solid shot that rolled up onto the green to edge Gardino by a point, sending the feisty Italian off the show and making the teams all even at four players a piece.
Its been great camaraderie, a lot of sense of humor, theres been a lot been jokes and there has been really, really good ambiance, said the departing Gardino. It doesnt get any better than this to be honest.

The Big Break IV: USA vs. Europe airs each Tuesday at 9 p.m. (ET), while Big Break IV: All Access airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (ET), as part of the networks Top Shelf Wednesday lineup of premium programming.
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